Thousands, possibly even millions, of television shows have come and gone throughout the years. Even today, with hundreds of channels on cable and many different streaming services on-line, most series are lucky to make it to completion of their first season, let alone achieve syndication status after multiple successful seasons. Most shows don’t even make it past the network executive office, let alone get greenlit for production once the pilot episode is filmed. For some lucky shows, they make it past the boardroom, past the pilot episode, and on to the regular schedule but get cut off after only a handful of episodes.
That was the case with 1992’s Scorch which aired on Friday’s at 8 PM on CBS for all of 3 episodes before being replaced with reruns of Rescue 911.
Scorch is a series I often think about “what could have been.” I really loved the show back in 1992.
In 1992, I was 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. This was the first time I can specifically remember being very focused on the new shows joining the television schedule. Some of the new shows debuting that season were The Golden Palace, the continuation of The Golden Girls without Bea Arthur, Howie Mandell’s sketch comedy show Howie, the NBC family sitcom The Torkelsons, and sci-fi series Eerie, Indiana (which later gained a cult following a run in syndication on Fox Kids afternoon programming block.
That year, it seemed like it wasn’t just me interested in one particular new show. Everyone in my class was talking about these advertisements for a funny new show featuring a fire-breathing dragon! It seemed like it was geared towards children our age, and my friends and I all made plans to watch the show’s first episode that Friday night and talk about it back in school on Monday morning. Clearly, this was before the days of tweeting, texting, or even AOL Instant Messenger. We actually had to WAIT to talk about stuff with our friends!
We all enjoyed the show, and I remember even being scolded by our teacher, Mrs. Hobbs, for talking during class about the first episode. We repeated this process for two more weeks when, after the fourth weekend, we returned to school confused. “Did we miss it?” my friends and I wondered. “Did they forget to put it on?”
Scorch had been canceled after the 3rd episode but we were too young to understand the concept of cancellation. As excited as we all were for the new shows that season, I guess we were unaware that sometimes shows ended. I had just assumed that any new show just stayed on the air and kept going in perpetuity. My friends all moved on pretty quick, but as I mentioned earlier, Scorch is a show etched in my mind.
The show revolved around a small 1,300-year-old dragon named Scorch, who had just awoken from a 100-year long nap. He’s struck by lightning and crash-lands in the apartment of a single dad named Brian Stevens and his daughter Jessica. The next morning, Brian has an interview at a TV station in New Haven, Connecticut, and Scorch tags along. When Scorch falls out of Brian’s bag, he convinces the network that he is a ventriloquist and Scorch is his puppet. For the remaining episodes, the premise revolves around the fact that nobody but Brian and Jessica know that Scorch is a real living and (fire) breathing dragon.
The idea for the series was created using real-life ventriloquist Ronn Lucas’ dragon puppet. Lucas never appeared on the show but provided Scorch’s voice for the series. Many years later I learned that they had actually filmed six episodes but the network decided that airing three was enough, and the others are lost to television history.
The cast featured a few familiar names, most notably John O’Hurley as Howard Gurman, the star news anchor. O’Hurley is best known as J. Peterman of Seinfeld fame.
The main character, Brian, is played by Jonathan Walker. This veteran character actor has an extensive IMDB credit list, most recently in shows like Blue Bloods, Quantico, and The Blacklist.
Other staff at the TV studio are played by Brenda Strong and Todd Susman. Brenda Strong is most recognized for her voice. She was the narrator for several years on Desperate Housewives. Todd Susman has appeared in the films The Coneheads, Blast from the Past with Brendan Fraser, and the recent remake of Taking of Pelham 123.
All of these years later, it’s hard to find out exactly why the show was canceled after only three episodes. One can surmise that low viewership must be the most obvious cause. Friday evenings are often considered the graveyard of television, and 8:00 PM on Friday evening is not exactly the most enviable timeslot. Gaining new viewers on a Friday evening was especially difficult in the early ’90s when rival network ABC was doing record numbers with children and families through its popular TGIF lineup that featured shows like Family Matters, Step by Step, and Dinosaurs.
Whatever the cause of cancellation, all these years later, this little three-episode sitcom still occupies space in my mind as a fond memory of my childhood. While I doubt it would it have ever been a “classic” sitcom like Seinfeld or Friends I’d like to think given a decent run on-air, it would have eventually made the level of nostalgic comfort-food type shows like Family Matters or Full House.
You can find all three episodes on YouTube, thanks to the kind souls that upload their old VHS tapes for the rest of us to enjoy. I’ve included both parts of Episode One in this article.
What short-lived shows have you always been a fan of and wished they would have gotten a longer stay on-air? Leave a comment below!